the only easy answer is, use pixels for everything that will be displayed on an electronic screen.
because vector graphics resize with perfect fidelity, the only thing about the size that matters is the aspect ratio. in flash/animate you have several options on how you stage can be resized. from the help files:
[static] Specifies that the entire application be visible in the specified area without trying to preserve the original aspect ratio.
NO_BORDER : String = "noBorder"
[static] Specifies that the entire application fill the specified area, without distortion but possibly with some cropping, while maintaining the original aspect ratio of the application.
NO_SCALE : String = "noScale"
[static] Specifies that the size of the application be fixed, so that it remains unchanged even as the size of the player window changes.
SHOW_ALL : String = "showAll"
[static] Specifies that the entire application be visible in the specified area without distortion while maintaining the original aspect ratio of the application.
Thanks for a most helpful reply kglad. Exactly what I needed to know and more.
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On the topic of device screen ratios, there are several approaches you can take. Here are some examples:
1. You lay out your interface using code, to set the position and size of elements. In that case the noScale option would make sense.
2. The important part of your interface is in the center area of the layout, and you don't mind if iPad crops some of the sides, and iPhone crops some of the top and bottom (in a landscape example). Then using noBorder would make sense. For a range of devices going from 4:3 to 16:9, you would want to have a 14:9 ratio stage.
3. You need the user to see everything that is in your fixed ratio layout. You would then use showAll, with a stage size that is either 4:3 or 16:9. If it's 4:3 you would have extra content off the left and right sides of the stage, that will be revealed on wider devices. If you use 16:9, you would have extra content off the top and bottom of the stage, that gets revealed on narrower devices.
Thanks Colin, your help is very much appreciated.